The Lasting Impact of a Boy's Hunting Trip with his Father

By Tim Albritton

One of my first hunts took place on a cold morning along an old Alabama farm road that led back into what our family called "the Bend." It was actually Bingham Bend, a part of the Tallapoosa River that makes a sharp bend where it borders land on which my father had grown up in Elmore county. My grandfather farmed that land for more than half of the 20th Century. On the other side of the river was Montgomery county.

My father let me tag-a-long on this early morning duck hunt, even though I wasn't old enough to carry a gun. I envied my oldest brother, Matt, who was allowed to carry a shotgun. When some ducks flew over I crouched down out of the way while my father and my brother filled the air with number four shells. Only one duck was taken that day. My brother Matt proudly claimed the wood duck, and my father did not argue with him. It was my first time ever to see a colorful wood duck up close and I was amazed by its exquisite colors.

Describing it today, that hunt doesn't sound very exciting. Nevertheless it had a profound impact on a little boy's life. From that day on nothing excited me quite like the prospect of going hunting with my dad. To be sure, it was an adventure -- crouching behind an old barbed-wire fence, covering my ears during the loud firing of the guns, and the harvesting of some game -- all of that was exciting. But the biggest thrill was the chance to share the adventure with my dad.

Many years have passed since that hunt in Elmore county. Now my three brothers and I all have sons of our own. My son Joseph, is 12 years old and approaching the adolescent years when, to say the least, a lot of changes are taking place in his life. For several years I have wanted to follow the advice of Dr. James Dobson, of Focus on the Family, and take my son on a trip to discuss some of these changes. Wanting to make the trip memorable, I began exploring the idea of taking Joseph on a three-day whitetail deer hunting trip.

I soon discovered that the cost of such a trip at most hunting lodges was out of my price range. But I was unable to get out of my mind the idea of an over-night hunting trip, because I knew that would really excite Joseph. So my wife Karen and I began to pray that the Lord would provide such an opportunity.

Only a couple of months later my work led me to the annual Alabama Landowner and Treasure Forest Conference. Serving as the Treasure Forest Coordinator is part of my job with the Alabama Forestry Commission. This year I was honored to have my father Walter Albritton attend the conference and offer the invocation at the banquet.

The Alabama Treasure Forest Association holds a "Silent Auction" each year at the conference to raise money. During some of the free time my father and I enjoyed looking through the auction display at some of the wonderful things donated, many of the items hand-made. The one thing that caught my eye was a Two-Day Deer Hunt in Clopton, Alabama, on the farm of Jack and Armeto Reynolds. I had already gotten to know Mr. Reynolds through my involvement with the ATFA and I knew this would be a great trip.

The Lord answered my prayers when my offer for the hunt was the highest bid. I could hardly wait to get home and tell Joseph about the trip. We eagerly checked our calendar and set a date with Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds.

We arranged for the hunt to take place December 1 and 2, 1999. We drove down that morning, arriving at the Reynolds Farm just after lunch. Jack and Armeto gave us a tour of the old home place where Jack was born and raised. Jack now owns the home and he and Armeto keep it in excellent condition. We enjoyed listening to them share a lot of fond memories from the past.

After Jack had finished giving us a tour of the farm, Joseph and I spent the afternoon on one of the many food plots watching for a deer. Disappointing darkness arrived before the deer did so we headed back to the house for supper. Jack told us we were in for a treat and he was right. Mrs. Reynolds had prepared fried quail, homemade biscuits, cheese grits, and my favorite -- homemade pecan pie.

We did something after dinner that is probably on the decline in a lot of households across America, we TALKED and VISITED. It was fun listening to some of their stories about growing up in Clopton. When we had finished visiting, Joseph and I were off to bed.

The next morning we walked to another food plot and hunted until our stomach told us it was time to go see what Mrs. Armeto had fixed for breakfast. We were not disappointed; she had prepared another meal to "write home about." After breakfast Jack showed us some of the quail he raises and some other accomplishments made on the farm. He has a real love of the land and it shows.

Joseph and I did some stalk hunting that afternoon and made our way to yet another food plot for the late afternoon hunt. We saw some deer but didn't get a clean shot at one. The main purpose of the trip, however, was accomplished. A father and son had spent some time together, talked about life and some of the changes that are on the way for him. It may be years before I will know if Joseph retains any of the message his dad tried to communicate with him, heart to heart, on that memorable deer-hunting trip in his twelfth year.

One thing is for sure -- we had a great time getting to know Jack and Armeto getting a peek back in time at what it was like growing up in Clopton, Alabama. If you have never been to the Treasure Forest Conference and put in a bid at the Silent Auction, I would encourage you to do it. You never know what kind of "treasure" the Lord may give you.